Domestic pharmaceutical marketAlong with the flourishing market for generic drugs, the projected transformation of the Japanese pharma industry will be driven by the increased use of biosimilars that are expected to be the fastest-growing sector in the future, with a variety of products currently under development. As many drug patents have begun to expire, Japanese companies are forced to adapt to a changing market environment. The Japanese pharma industry remains, however, one of the largest with a share of approximately seven percent of the world market. While the market in Japan is subjected to a transformation, it offers a variety of opportunities and potential for growth. The aging society and growing life expectancy have led to high demand for medical treatment and will be a key driver for future developments. Additionally, the Japanese government has been working on reducing long approval processes for new products faced by pharma companies, which will also have the positive effect of attracting foreign companies. Not only international companies seeking to invest in the Japanese market, but also growing pharmaceutical exports from Japan will help strengthen the pharma industry.
COVID-19 vaccinationDue to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, pharma companies around the world attempted to produce medicines for the treatment or cure of the disease. The Japanese government tailored most of the financial commitment to the international development and testing of drugs rather than developing the vaccine domestically after the outbreak, according to the supplementary budget plan from 2020. Nevertheless, four nationally developed vaccines are currently in clinical trials as of May 2021. Shionogi & Co., Ltd., National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), and UMN Pharma Inc., for example, have initiated trials for a recombinant protein-based vaccine since December 2020. The institute of medical science, the University of Tokyo, produced an mRNA vaccine with Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited, and inactivated vaccine with KM biologics, which are both in the trial process since March 2021. AnGEs, Inc. has launched the testing of a DNA-based vaccination in June 2020 collaborating with Osaka University and Takara Bio Inc.
In February 2021, the Japanese government approved the first vaccine against COVID-19, the mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Vaccinations then commenced in February mainly for health professionals and in April for citizens aged 65 and older. AstraZeneca pls’ viral vector vaccine and Moderna, Inc.’s mRNA vaccine were approved in May 2021. The administration of the Moderna vaccine started directly after approval in cooperation with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited as the local distributor. The distribution of AsteraZeneca’s vaccine is still in discussion as of the end of May 2021. More than half of approximately 4.8 million health professionals in Japan have received second doses of COVID-19 vaccines while less than three percent of the population have been vaccinated with the first doses, as of May 2021.